Two paramedics are at the center of the third and final trial in the case of Elijah McClain's 2019 death, and both defendants face charges of reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault, plus sentence enhancers.
McClain, 23, was stopped by officers with the Aurora Police Department (APD) on Aug. 24, 2019 and following a violent encounter, died a few days later.
Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics Peter Cichuniec and Jeremy Cooper are accused of injecting a significant amount of ketamine into McClain. Medical experts have previously testified that he was given a higher dose of ketamine than recommended for somebody of his size. In previous trials, prosecutors said the carotid hold, which was applied by police before paramedics arrived, played a key role in his death, while defense attorneys argued that the cause of death was only the ketamine, and McClain would have survived the police encounter without the injection. The ketamine led to cardiac arrest. McClain was declared brain dead and died Aug. 30, 2019.
Previously, a jury found APD Officer Randy Roedema guilty of criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault, and former APD Officer Jason Rosenblatt, who was fired by the department less than a year after McClain's death, was acquitted of all charges. In the second trial, defendant APD Officer Nathan Woodyard was also found not guilty.
The trial for Cichuniec and Cooper is expected to last about a month.
Scroll down to read updates from the Dec. 11 proceedings.
Monday, Dec. 11
After the trial of Paramedics Cooper and Cichuniec went on recess for approximately two and a half business days, proceedings resumed Monday morning just before 9 a.m.
The court did not address what was behind the abrupt ending to trial on Wednesday, Dec. 6 when the judge announced that there was an issue and he would excuse the jury for the rest of the day.
That was followed by two more days of court on pause. "Due to unforeseen circumstances, court is in recess until Friday at 8:30 a.m.," CoCourts posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
People v. Cichuniec (21CR2806) and Cooper (21CR2800): due to unforeseen circumstances, court is in recess until Friday at 8:30 am. #CoLaw— CO Courts (@CoCourts) December 6, 2023
Then there was further elaboration that "due to health concerns, in the interest of the wellbeing of the jury, and with the input of the parties, the Court has recessed proceedings until Monday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m.," CoCourts posted on X.
People v. Cichuniec (21CR2806) and Cooper (21CR2800): due to health concerns, in the interest of the wellbeing of the jury, and with the input of the parties, the Court has recessed proceedings until Mon. Dec. 11 at 8:30 am #CoLaw— CO Courts (@CoCourts) December 7, 2023
The prosecution and defense got through three witnesses in the first three hours of court Monday.
First, the People brought Amanda Kelsey to the stand. She's been a crime scene investigator with the Aurora Police Department for 20 years. She also testified in the trial of APD Officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt.
And she was a witness in the trial of APD Officer Nathan Woodyard.
Monday, the People introduced exhibits 351-354 and 360-364 into the court record- all of which were photos Kelsey took of the scene where McClain was arrested. They also admitted exhibits 375-390- which included more photos of the scene, in addition to photos of McClain's autopsy that Kelsey captured. Exhibits 375-390 were admitted subject to the prosecution establishing foundation for their admittance.
Exhibits 135 and 136, videos that Kelsey took of the scene, were also submitted to the court record.
In cross examination, the defense for Cooper and Cichuniec pressed Kelsey on whether she had measured the distance from the street where the fire engine and ambulance had likely been parked to the scene of where McClain was arrested by Aurora police.
She did not.
The defense also asked Kelsey to clarify that she used flash in the photographs she took of the scene, and a light to illuminate the area when she took videos, clarifying "they looked different than what you'd see with the naked eye." Kelsey confirmed that was correct.
The People then introduced Alissa Gonzalez, who was a basic EMT for Falck Rocky Mountain, at the time of McClain's arrest. Falck is a company that works in partnership with the Aurora Police Department by providing ambulances that show up to calls when needed.
Gonzalez was also a witness in the trial of Officer Woodyard.
Gonzalez said before the Falck team arrived on the scene of McClain's arrest, she knew there was a request for ketamine to be administered.
During her testimony, Gonzalez was asked several questions about if she remembered medical equipment near McClain when she arrived, if she could recall anyone checking for McClain's vitals before he reached the ambulance, and if Cooper or Cichuniec objected to McClain lying "prone"- with his stomach in the grass. To all of which, she answered "no" or "I don't remember."
The court took a mid-morning break around 10:10 a.m. before defense conducted cross examination of Gonzalez.
Finally, the prosecution brought Madison Freeman, a coworker and friend of McClain's, to the stand. She told the jury she worked with McClain at Massage Envy from approximately 2017-2019 up until his death.
At question throughout this trial and the two prior trials of Aurora police officers Roedema, Rosenblatt and Woodyard, was McClain's fitness and overall health that could've contributed to his death.
While Freeman testified McClain would run or bicycle to and from work continually and sometimes during his lunch breaks, the defense questioned Freeman on whether she herself was also a runner and ever accompanied McClain on his runs. The defense asked, "You can see say that he showed up at work and tell you he ran there?"
But Freeman countered by clarifying the Greenwood Village location of Massage Envy the two worked at had large windows in the front, and she could see him running.
The court took its lunch break early and is set to resume around 12:30 p.m.
PREVIOUS DAYS OF THIS TRIAL:
- Day 1 - Wednesday, Nov. 29
- Day 2 - Thursday, Nov. 30
- Day 3 - Friday, Dec. 1
- Day 4 - Monday, Dec. 4
- Day 5 - Tuesday, Dec. 5
- Day 6 - Wednesday, Dec. 6